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PM Narendra Modi attends opening ceremony of 31st ASEAN Summit, talks with Donald Trump shortly

by indiatoday.intoday.in

Image credit : Illustrative Image

Bijin Jose

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today shared the stage with world leaders at the 31st Asean Summit in Manila, Philippines.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today attended the opening ceremony of the 31st Asean Summit here.

“Photo session & Handshake by leaders during the Opening Ceremony of the ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines,” Indian public broadcaster Doordarshan posted on Twitter along with a video in which PM Modi was seen sharing the stage with world leaders and shaking hands with them.

Earlier on Sunday, Modi interacted with world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, at a gala dinner reception hosted by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte ahead of this year’s India-Asean and East Asia Summits.

Ahead of the summits, Modi will hold a bilateral meeting with Duterte, and the Prime Minister is also scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Trump.

Modi would also speak at the Asean Business and Investment Summit and attend an Indian community reception to be hosted by the Ambassador of India to the Philippines

This year marks the 25th year of the India-Asean dialogue partnership and the golden jubilee of the formation of the Asean regional bloc.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

SOUTH CHINA SEA ISSUE TO DOMINATE SUMMIT

With China’s controversial military buildup in the South China Sea likely to be a major issue at the summit, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang today clearly reiterated Beijing’s long-held position that it wants to bilaterally resolve its disputes on the issue with its neighbours.

In an article published in leading newspapers here, Li admitted that the bilateral relationship between China and the Philippines had “encountered a setback” due to the South China Sea issue but it was back on track due to appropriate handling of the issue by the two sides.

The Chinese premier, who will be here for the ASEAN and East Asia summits, said Beijing will actively explore joint development of the South China sea to make it a “sea of cooperation and friendship” for the benefit of the two countries.

“China will work with the Philippines to continue to properly handle the maritime issues through friendly bilateral consultation by giving full play to such mechanisms as the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea,” Li wrote.

Ahead of the annual summit of the ASEAN, an influential grouping of 10 South East Asian countries, a number of diplomats said the thorny issue of China’s aggressive military buildup in the South China Sea may be one of the focus areas of the deliberations on Tuesday.

China claims sovereignty over all of South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, several ASEAN member countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei have counter claims.

INDIA BACKS FREEDOM OF NAVIGATION

India has been supporting freedom of navigation and access to resources in the South China Sea in accordance with principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The ASEAN has been pushing for a legally binding code of conduct for all stakeholders in the South China Sea but Beijing has opposed such a framework asserting it will resolve the dispute with respective countries under a bilateral mechanism.

“The two sides returned to the track of appropriately handling the South China Sea issue through dialogue and consultation, thus removing the stumbling block that has held back our bilateral relations for several years,” Li said.

The controversial issue was also understood to have figured in a meeting of officials from India, the US, Japan, and Australia under the proposed Quadrilateral coalition of the four countries.

“The discussions focused on cooperation based on their converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners,” the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said.

“They agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large,” it said.